By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
It wasn't until prosecutors found out, however, that Slade had told former regent Belinda Griffin in January 2006 that the university was buying Slade furniture for her million-dollar home in Memorial Park that they began to sink their teeth into the case.
The story reported by the media was that Griffin dropped by Slade's home to pick up a pair of handbags and a pearl necklace that Slade had purchased during a trip to China. The necklace was a gift, but Griffin had promised to pay Slade for the two bags. It was during this visit, Griffin later testified in court, that Slade told her that TSU had purchased some of the furniture in Slade's home. Concerned, Griffin called fellow regent J. Paul Johnson and the two then asked the university's internal auditor to investigate.
Brown, Hudson and Jordan say most of this is true, but that the board intended to keep it all in-house and out of public view. They say it was actually they who alerted prosecutors, enabling Goode to launch a grand jury investigation that eventually resulted with Slade's indictment.
"How did Slade truly get busted?" says Brown. "Well, there was a regent who was a supporter of ours and was feeding us information. That regent told us about the conversation Griffin had with Slade and about the emergency meeting the board called together one night to discuss it. We then told the DA, and the media never would have known if guess who hadn't of called them. That's right, it was us. And when all those TV cameras showed up at the emergency board meeting, the board said they were launching their own investigation, and that's how the board got portrayed in a positive light."
Goode is rather tight-lipped on this point, but wants to make sure the TSU Three get their due credit.
"Well," she says, "let's just say I can confirm what the boys said. We received a tip that Belinda Griffin had concerns that there were likely unauthorized purchases made. And that got us going."
After nearly two months of hearing testimony in the Slade case, jury members took the better part of five straight days of deadlocked deliberations before State District Court Judge Brock Thomas let them off the hook and declared a hung jury, granting Slade a mistrial the second week of October.
And while Slade and her friends huddled together in the courtroom celebrating and praying aloud, William Hudson sat silently, alone, slumped over on the same hardwood bench he'd been occupying for weeks on end. The first thing he did was text message his friends Brown and Jordan what had happened. Then, he smiled.
"Well, it's better than saying her ass is not guilty," he laughed. "Good things come to those who wait."
Goode and her team of prosecutors are already preparing to retry Slade in March. It is rumored that Wiggins and Wilson may cut deals in exchange for their testimony against Slade.
"If they do," says Jordan, "it will be a much tougher hill for Slade to climb. And I am looking forward to that."
Brown, Hudson and Jordan are also looking ahead toward the next phase of their lives.
"I remember at one point," says Hudson's mother, Sharon, "William came home late at night in the middle of all this, all the harassment at school from the kids and administration, and just sat down and said, 'Mama, why?' And then he just broke down crying. And Glenn just sat there holding him. He went from being such a happy-go-lucky guy and really changed into this angry, depressed, frustrated and quick-tempered person."
Today, the old William Hudson has reemerged. He graduated from TSU in December 2006 and is working at Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Center in the insurance department. Hudson is also back in school, earning his Master's degree in public health at Benedictine University, taking online classes at Cornell University to get a Business Analysis certificate and studying for the LSAT. Hudson hopes to one day be general counsel for a health care company. He says his grades plummeted before his suspension and his transcript is riddled with withdrawals and yes, because of this he's given up his dream of going to the ultracompetitive Naval Medical School. But he is still optimistic and feels back on track.
Oliver Brown is living his dream of being an airplane pilot, flying for Express Jet Airlines, but has yet to graduate college. He still has about a semester to go to earn his degree in aviation, but says he will only complete it at TSU, "once the program is functioning properly." Possibly still riding the high of working with the FBI and the district attorney, his latest project is getting the aviation department to where he feels it is up to snuff. Brown recently held a meeting with the department's faculty, calling for one professor's resignation.
"To be honest, this shit really gets my rocks off," he said leaving the meeting.
Jordan is planning to graduate from TSU in December 2008 with a degree in public affairs. As state chair of the College Republican National Committee, he is thinking about a life in politics. Once school is over, he wants to remain in Houston and work his way up from the bottom, from county to state and maybe one day a nationally elected position.